Expert painstakingly cleans and separates coins
San Francisco, CA -- (SBWIRE) -- 10/02/2012 -- Jersey Heritage is busy sorting and cleaning what appears to be the largest discovery of its kind - 70,000 ancient coins recently found on the island.
Two amateur metal detector enthusiasts, Reg Mead and Richard Miles, discovered the coins after a woman told them her father had found some coins in a field several years prior.
Experts believe tribesmen from Gaul hid the coins in the island in 50 BC to keep them from Caesar and his army.Neil Mahrer of Jersey Heritage said that within the large hunk of recovered coins is jewelry and organic material that could be the remains of bags in which coins were placed before they were thrown into the pit.
Mr. Mahrer said: "We assumed it would be a coin hoard but when I started to clear back the surface I found a piece of silver Celtic jewellery. We have no idea how much jewellery or other material is hidden inside.
"Virtually no two are exactly the same, they are all of a known type so far from one tribe on the French coast but we can only see about 1 percent of the coins in it."
Mr. Mahrer, a conservation specialist, spent several months removing layers of earth to uncover coins hidden below.
However, that was the first phase, he said. The real work involves separating and cleaning the coins and jewelry.
Mr. Mahrer is doing that work with the mud-covered coins in the center of the floor in a small lab. "Doing it virtually coin by coin we are expecting it to take six to eight years for one person. We hope to employ two other people than myself and do it in a two to three year period.
"Painstaking is the word, because we are doing it as correctly as we can it is going to take time. Trying to get as much information as we can from the hoard means recording the positions of all the coins, recording all their treatment, treating them very carefully and slowly," he said.
Jersey Heritage hopes to display cleaned coins and jewelry at the Jersey Museum.
Although the coins have a financial value, it is impossible to quantify it until all coins are accounted for and cleaned, said Mr. Mahrer.
The true value, he added, is the historic and scientific significance of the discovery.
Meanwhile, no two coins from the hoard are the same, he said. "The importance of this is what we hope to find out about Jersey and France at this time. As simple scrap metal it is bound to have some value and as coins on the market it has some value but doing it coin by coin we hope to find out what was put into the hoard at a bag by bag level."
The coins came from the Coriosolite tribe, a French Celtic nation that ruled over the area near St Malo and Dinan, said Mr. Mahrer. They date “from about 50 or 60 BC which is around the time Julius Caesar invaded Gaul and the two facts are presumably connected. This money was rushed to here, it is very tempting to talk about offshore banking but it was certainly removed from the French mainland to here.
"I'm not sure why, whether to be hidden, reused or somewhere the coins for the tribes were made. It was Celtic tribes fighting the Romans, it was Asterix basically."
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